Spoke too soon: City abandons plan to roll out dockless bike share program in Coney Island

Better backpedal! Coney community board blasts city’s dockless bike-rental program
Photo by Steve Solomonson

They’re dock-less!

The city has officially abandoned its plan to bring 200 dockless bikes to Coney Island, according to a spokeswoman for the Department of Transportation.

Agency honchos are instead channeling all of their energy into increasing the number of untethered two-wheelers in the distant land of Staten Island, according to spokeswoman Alana Morales, who added that officials plan to keep Coney Islanders in the loop as they continue on their quest to make the Big Apple a more bike-filled city.

“DOT is currently focused on our [request for expressions of interest] and plans for a larger dockless bike share pilot on Staten Island, and have no immediate plans for additional pilots at this time,” Morales said. “We look forward to continuing our conversations with the Coney Island community as we explore ways to expand bike share options throughout the city in the future.”

Transportation agency officials first announced the pilot program in the People’s Playground last May, but then delayed the roll out until the end of last year, after locals charged that the plan would bring chaos to Coney by allowing riders to drop the bikes wherever they wanted and exacerbating the problem of allegedly reckless cyclists careening down the crowded Riegelmann Boardwalk.

Officials never brought the bikes to Sodom by the Sea — which does not have any other bike share services — but they did roll out pilot programs in the distant boroughs of Staten Island, Queens, and the Bronx. And the transportation agency announced this month that honchos are seeking proposals to institute an expanded, borough-wide dockless bike share program to likely launch this summer in Staten Island following last year’s trial.

Coney Island officials — who last year sent a letter to both the transportation commissioner and the mayor outlining their strong opposition to the plan — rejoiced at the news of the reversal.

The district manager of the local Community Board 13 — whose members passed a motion last summer rejecting the plan — cheered city officials for listening to the concerns of his fellow board members who raised their voices in opposition to the proposal.

“We told them no, so they heard us loud and clear,” said Eddie Mark.

The board’s chair was similarly jubilant, and claimed that the plan was illogical from the start.

“Thank God,” said Joann Weiss. “Canceling it out is the right thing to do for the welfare of the community, because it would have only been a hindrance and not a help. Having these bikes and being able to drop them wherever you choose was just a ridiculous situation.”

Reps from the transportation agency never answered this paper’s repeated inquiries last year about where the bikes would initially be distributed, who would be liable for injuries to riders, and how the system would limit riders bringing the bikes on the boardwalk, taking them out of the neighborhood’s boundaries, and abandoning them in the middle of the street.

But the co-founder of local cycling advocacy group Bike South Brooklyn decried the news out of the People’s Playground, and blasted city honchos for allegedly only listening to those who opposed the plans, who he claimed don’t cycle anyway.

“It’s disappointing, obviously,” said Brian Hedden, who lives in Bay Ridge. “It’s another one of those cases where the mayor’s office and the DOT has put so much stock into the voice of people that will never, ever get on a bicycle at the expense of people who are looking for this sort of thing. The city is listening to the wrong people exclusively.”

Statistics show that having more bikes in an area leads to safer overall conditions for cyclists, transportation agency reps told this newspaper last summer, citing a 17 percent decrease in cyclists killed or severely injured in bike-rental zones citywide after CitiBike launched in 2013.

Reach reporter Julianne McShane at (718) 260–2523 or by e-mail at jmcsh[email protected]chnepsmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @juliannemcshane.